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The “Blueprint for a European degree” gathered the higher education sector, representatives of the Member States and the European Commission to discuss pilot results

The Member states and higher education sector discuss on the next steps towards a European degree

On 29 April 2024, almost 300 representatives of higher education institutions from across the EU, representatives of the Member States, the higher education sector and the European Commission met in Brussels for the event “A blueprint for a European degree: Results of Erasmus+ pilots on the European degree label & a possible European legal status for alliances of higher education institutions. Also more than 1000 people joined the event online! The objective was to discuss the results of 10 Erasmus+ pilots where universities worked hand in hand with Member States to test a European degree label and institutionalised forms of cooperation, such as a possible European legal status for alliances of higher education institutions. And to discuss on the next steps to make the European degree a reality, based on the related proposal from the European Commission on the blueprint for a European degree

Representing a variety of methodologies and conclusions, the participating experts unanimously called for further work on the implementation of a blueprint for the European degree and the promotion of transnational cooperation between higher education institutions in Europe. They stressed the need to implement the necessary legislative changes in a coordinated fashion and to provide a framework for sustainable institutionalised cooperation at European level, allowing also for the award of European degrees.

10 Erasmus+ pilot projects 

In 2022, the European Commission launched an Erasmus+ call on a European degree (label) and a possible European legal status for alliances of higher education institutions. Ten Erasmus+ pilot projects started their work in Spring 2023.

Six pilots aimed to test the European criteria for a European degree (label), pilot a joint European degree label and provide recommendations to facilitate the development and implementation of joint degrees in Europe in line with these European criteria. Four pilots involving alliances of higher education institutions tested a possible European legal status for these alliances. The aim of this legal status is to give any type of alliances of higher education institutions, on a voluntary basis, the latitude to act together, including on designing joint curricula. The projects provided recommendations for a possible future European legal status, with specific features tailored to the higher education sector.

Outcomes of the projects

Despite the considerable progress made in facilitating the development of joint programmes in Europe as part of the Bologna process, the pilot projects concluded that there are still a substantial number of key obstacles to creating and implementing transnational joint programmes. These obstacles include complex and lengthy quality assurance processes in a transnational context, barriers to automatic mutual recognition of qualifications, and inconsistent recognition of the work of academic staff involved in transnational cooperation activities.

A European degree could help overcome some of these remaining obstacles, together with the two proposals for Council Recommendations on quality assurance and on attractive academic careers, that are part of the European degree package presented by the Commission on 27 March. It would allow higher education institutions to offer more opportunities to students, reduce the administrative burden associated with the design and delivery of joint degree programmes, facilitate collaborative teaching, empower staff and provide them with additional internationalisation opportunities, and increase the transparency and automatic recognition of joint degrees.

The European degree is also about bringing more opportunities to students and young people: more opportunities to study across multiple universities in Europe, to receive innovative, relevant and transdisciplinary learning opportunities across campuses, to be equipped with future-proof skills that Europe needs, to find a job with a degree that is recognised across the EU and to belong and feel Europeans.

And a possible European legal status for alliances could in future not only facilitate joint educational activities - such as the delivery of a European degree and micro-credentials for lifelong learning - but could at the same time also eliminate or reduce operational and administrative obstacles higher education institutions face when working closer together. 

Next steps towards a European degree

This proposal for a blueprint is only the first step on the pathway towards a European degree. It launches formal discussions with the Council of the EU to adopt the European criteria and with Member States to engage in necessary reforms. 

In autumn 2024, the Commission plan to present the final report synthesising the results of the Erasmus+ pilot projects.

The close cooperation with the higher education sector will continue on the next steps towards the implementation of a European degree. The pilot projects and the wider higher education sector will have the opportunity to further contribute to the discussions shaping the European degree as part of the European Degree Policy Lab and the European Degree Forum planned by the Commission for 2025.

The full recording of the conference is available here.

The  blueprint towards a European degree

The European degree will make it easier for universities from different countries to cooperate seamlessly and develop innovative joint programmes across several countries. The programmes leading to European degrees will be different from regular programmes in the sense that they will offer a truly transnational learning experience, and they will go beyond a simple mobility experience. 

They will be developed jointly by universities from different countries for a multicultural cohort of students, who will have the possibility to study in different universities from different countries. European degrees will offer the best education from several universities at once, combining the different strengths, knowledge and expertise of our education systems.

The criteria to be fulfilled will ensure that European degree programmes are student-centred, incorporating elements such as inter-disciplinarity, the development of critical digital skills, labour-based experiences such as traineeships, volunteering, cooperation with businesses and the public sector. The criteria will also embody the importance of having students representatives involved in the decision-making, commitments to inclusion, support to disadvantaged groups of learners, to democratic values and environmental sustainability. 

  • published 12 April 2024
  • modified 29 April 2024